Story by: John Guidroz
Published by: AmericanPress.com
Gov. John Bel Edwards joined state and local officials Tuesday to celebrate the grand opening of the Acadian Ambulance operations center, located in Lake Charles’ Nellie Lutcher Cultural District.
The 18,000-square-foot facility at 721 Enterprise Blvd. that once housed Dimmick Supply Co. underwent a $1.9 million renovation. It will serve as the administrative and fleet center for Acadian Ambulance’s SWLA operations and also has an ambulance crew station, offices for Acadian Total Security and classrooms for the Lake Charles campus of Acadian’s National Emergency Medical Services Academy.
“This facility is a tremendous example of a good thing happening at the right place at exactly the right time,” the governor said.
Edwards said Southwest Louisiana residents “have been through a tremendous ordeal over the past year” with Hurricanes Laura and Delta.
“Every time I come to Lake Charles, I see progress,” he said. “But I’m also reminded that we have a long way to go.”
Health care workers, including emergency medical technicians and paramedics, have been tested more than any other profession over the past year, Edwards said. He and other officials said Acadian’s Lake Charles campus can address a nationwide shortage of EMTs.
Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said the Acadian Ambulance facility is part of the city’s “comeback story” following the devastation of Hurricanes Laura and Delta. He spoke of the need to keep investing in underserved neighborhoods throughout Lake Charles.
“Where we’re standing today is a big start,” he said. “The activity from Acadian is going to be good for the businesses that are already here, and it’s going to be good to attract new businesses.”
Hunter thanked District B Councilwoman Luvertha August for her work in securing the project for her district.
State Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur, thanked Acadian for bringing the facility to Lake Charles.
“We realize that you could’ve built this in many other communities around the state, but you chose us,” he said.
Johns said Acadian Ambulance emergency personnel were some of the first people he saw immediately after Hurricane Laura’s Aug. 27 landfall.
“There were no street lights; there were very few roads that were even passable,” he said. “But they somehow found a way to do their job, and we’ll always be grateful for that.”
Calcasieu Parish Police Jury President Brian Abshire said the parish awarded a contract to Acadian Ambulance in the late 1990s as its sole provider for ambulance services, including all municipalities.
“This new operations center represents a key investment in Southwest Louisiana, and we look forward to many more years of this partnership,” he said.
Hunter said city officials will go before the Joint Legislative Committee of the Budget on Friday to ask for tax increment financing along the Enterprise Boulevard/Interstate 10 corridor.
“We’re asking for just a portion of the sales tax increment on the growth that happens in these areas,” he said.
Edwards reminded residents to take protective measures against COVID-19 and for those eligible to get the vaccine as soon as possible. Since last March, 10,000 Louisiana residents have died from complications of the virus, he said.
“If you think it’s no worse than the average flu, 15 times as many people died as one of our worst flu years,” Edwards said. “This pandemic is real. It’s serious.”
Edwards said he is encouraged that more Louisiana residents are fully vaccinated from COVID-19 than have tested positive for the virus. However, the more transmissible B117 variant has been identified in Southwest Louisiana more than anywhere else in the state, he said.
“We’re in a race against the virus, particularly against the variants,” Edwards said. “Vaccines are literally the only way we put this pandemic behind us. When the pandemic is gone, you’re still going to have an endemic situation. Coronavirus is not going anywhere.”